How to Dry Fresh Herbs: 4 Easy Preservation Methods

Learn why and how to dry fresh herbs from your garden with these 4 easy preservation methods. Savor the summer garden while it lasts.

Fresh herbs tied into bundles ready to be air dried to preserve them for winter.

This post is in collaboration with Anja at Our Gabled Home and Hope at Dig the Good Life. Check out their blogs to see how they are Savoring the Summer Garden.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my full disclosure here.

How to Dry Fresh Herbs: 4 Easy Preservation Methods Video

Savoring the Summer Garden

Summer is quickly fading into autumn. The garden is showing signs of this transformation. The once brilliant sunflowers are withering slowly. The weeds are growing more quickly than I can pull them, trying to spread their seeds for next year.

In the past, I would find myself resenting the change, summer fading to autumn and inevitably to winter. This year, while the change still causes my heart to sink a little, I found myself yearning for the close of the summer season with all it’s busyness and hard outdoor labor.

Purple and pink cosmo in a late summer garden with a spilt rail fence in the background.

My heart is turning inward toward my home. Projects that must be pushed aside in favor of the garden are coming to mind once again.

I look forward to putting my home into order, cleaning and clearing away the dust and dirt and unnecessary clutter that will accumulate when not tended to regularly.

While all these things are pressing in and causing my mind to turn from the garden, I’m still working hard out there harvesting, endlessly weeding, and preserving what I can.

A Simple Way to Preserve

There are so many ways to preserve what is growing in the spring and summer to be enjoyed in the winter months, preservation can be intimidating when it isn’t something you grew up being taught.

Bundles of fresh herbs tied up with twine ready to be air dried.

One very simple way to preserve just a little of the summer is through drying herbs. This is not complicated and it will be very difficult to mess up.

While harvesting and using fresh herbs in cooking and for herbal remedies is by far the best way, using preserved herbs is still wonderful, especially when they have been grown in your own garden.

Why to Dry Fresh Herbs from the Garden?

Why would anyone want to take the time to preserve fresh herbs from their garden when it is so easy to go into the grocery store and purchase what they need?

If you have ever had a garden, you will understand that there is something just different about eating or using produce that was homegrown.

Preserving herbs by tying them with twine into bundles to be air dried. Primitive black scissor and twine laying on a wood table.

Home Grown is Just Different

It’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s because the produce is as fresh as it can possibly get. Maybe it’s because it is grown in better soil and therefore has better flavor. Or perhaps, it’s that you understand the time and effort that must be put forth to reap a harvest. Perhaps, they are all true. Read why everyone should start a garden.

Some Other Reasons

While these are compelling enough reasons of their own for me to preserve the fresh herbs from my garden, here are a few other reason why it is a wonderful thing to do.

The cost of dried herbs is actually pretty high. Maybe it’s easy to miss that because they come in such tiny bottles. Since drying herbs at home is very easy, it’s an excellent way to use your resources with wisdom and frugality.

A woman's hand loosening leaves on dried thyme into a large stoneware bowl to be preserved.

Skills like preserving food for the winter have in large part been lost to us in the modern era. But for many hundreds of years, these skills were basic and extremely important. We take for granted that we will always have access to food, therefore we use our time in much more “important” ways, like scrolling social media or watching movies.

However, this might not always be the case. While it’s easy for us to pridefully think that will never happen, who’s to say it won’t. Times change, countries change, and believe it or not much of the world still lives in poverty and hunger. It’s prudent and wise to understand how food grows and how to preserve it so that if times were ever to change there is some basic understanding that will carry you through.

We are also created beings designed to work the earth with our own hands. Slowly snipping stalks of herbs from their plants, carying them back to the house to be dried, drying them and then storing them, all involve the work of our hands. It’s satisfying. It’s what we were created for.

How Long Does It Take for Herbs to Dry

It depends on the drying method. Hang to dry takes the longest around 1-2 weeks and oven drying might take 10-15 minutes. They each have their up and down sides.

A string of twine with fresh herbs hung by clothes pins to dry hung above an old printers drawer used as a display case for nature finds.

What Herbs to Preserve

While you can dry or freeze all types of herbs, there are some that are more commonly used in cooking, tea or natural homemaking. Below is a list of herbs that are commonly used and would be the best options for preserving.

  • thyme
  • basil
  • sage
  • rosemary
  • oregano
  • chamomile
  • mint
  • dill
  • parsley
  • sweet marjoram
  • chives (best frozen)
  • calendula
  • there are many more as well!

Preparing Herbs for Drying

Here are a few tips to prepare your herbs for drying.

A woman's hands cutting fresh basil from the garden for drying and preserving.
  1. The best time to harvest your herbs is in the morning before the heat of the day.
  2. Wash gently in clean water to remove dirt or bugs. (I skip this step if they don’t look too dirty).
  3. Pat dry or use a salad spinner to remove all the water. The more wet your herbs are, the longer they take to dry out which can increase the chance of mold.
A stainless steels sink with water and fresh mint. A large gathering basket and fresh flowers in the background.

How to Dry Fresh Herbs with 4 Easy Preservation Methods

From century old methods to modern methods there are ways to preserve herbs no matter your situation. Below are four ways to preserve herbs and how to do it.

1. Hang to Dry Method

While this method takes the most time to dry, it happens to be my favorite because it doesn’t require any special equipment. It also adds such natural old time charming beauty to your home.

Drying fresh herbs on a string of twine hung by clothes pins. Lavender, chamomile, mint, thyme, sage.

Supplies Needed: twine and a place to hang dry.

  1. Bundle around 10 stems together with twine or rubber bands tightly as they will shrink when drying.
  2. Hang upside down out of direct sunlight until completely dry.
  3. Check them every few days and test to see if they are dry. The drying time will vary depending on the humidity levels in your area.
  4. Remove leave or flowers from stems and store in airtight containers.

2. Dehydrating Method

This is a much faster way to dry herbs without damaging them with heat. Because the dehydrator is set at a low heat setting (95 degrees) it doen’t cook the herbs. The dehydrator just circulates slightly warm dry air which causes the herbs to dry out more quickly.

Basil leave slayed in a single layer on a nesco dehydrator with a large gathering basket on the table next to it.

Supplies Needed: dehydrator, dehydrator screens and salad spinner.

  1. For herbs with larger leaves (like basil) remove from stalk. For herbs with small leaves (like thyme) they can be left on the stem to dehydrate.
  2. Lay leaves or stems in a single layer on the dehydrator rack and dry on lowest setting (around 95 degrees).
  3. Check dehydrator often and remove each stem or leaf once dry to the touch. Small leaved herbs will dry in a few hours while large leaved herbs will take 1-3 days.
  4. Once herbs are dry remove leaves or flowers from stems and store in airtight containers.

3. Oven Drying Method

I would only suggest using this method if none of the other ones are going to work for you. Because most oven don’t get lower than 170 degrees the herbs will be cooked. This causes them to lose much of their flavor and natural heath benefits.

Supplies Needed: oven and cookie sheets

  1. Lay clean herbs on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
  2. Set oven to lowest temperature possible.
  3. Keep oven door open to help keep at a lower temperature and prevent herbs from burning.
  4. Set a timer and check every ten minutes removing each dry piece. If left in too long they will burn.

How to Store Dried Herbs

The herbs need to be completely dry before being put into storage. They will become moldy if they haven’t been dried long enough.

How to dry fresh herbs: 4 preservation methods

How can you tell if they are dry enough? When the herbs are completely dry they will crumble easily when touched.

The herbs can either be stored whole or crumbled. They loose their flavor faster once crumbled but the advantage is they also take up less space.

In order to store dried herbs for a long period they must be keep in air tight containers. Mason jars work well or these classic old-timey La Parfait jars with a rubber seal are another beautiful option. Some day I would like to invest in these beautiful jars.

Store in a dry and dark location and be sure to label your jars. I purchased this label maker over 6 years ago and it works great to label my herb jars.

How Long Do Dried Herbs Last

Properly dried herbs will last for several years, but they do tend to lose their flavor over time.

Planning to replace them every one to two years is a good idea for the best culinary flavor.

Chamomile and thyme dried and stored in mason jars.

4. Freezing Method

Here is one more method for preserving fresh herbs from the garden. Freezing herbs either loose, chopped up in ice cube trays with water or olive oil, or freeze some homemade pesto are all great ways to preserve herbs in the freezer.

While this requires them to be kept in the freezer until they ready to be used, this might be an excellent way to keep certain herbs “fresh” all winter long.

Supplies needed: ice cube trays and freezer.

Freeze Loose: lay clean herbs on a cookie sheet and flash freeze for 1 hour. Remove and put into freezer bags. Be sure to remove all air before putting them back.

Freeze in Water: chop fresh herbs and put into ice cube trays. Pour water over top and freeze for several hours. Remove herb ice cubes and store in air tight containers in the freezer.

Freeze in Oil: chop fresh herbs and put into ice cube trays. Pour olive oil over top and freeze for several hours. Remove frozen oil cubes and store in air tight containers in the freezer.

Herbs will keep in the freezer for around a year if stored in an air tight container.

How to Use: If frozen in water, the herbs can be defrosted and drained and used like fresh herbs. The other ways are best used in soups, stews and other cooked recipes.

Start Preserving

I hope this encourages you to try your hand at some simple preserving this year. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can visit a farmers market and practice preserving some locally grown produce too. Oh and don’t forget to start planning your garden for next year!

Also, be sure the check out Anja from Our Gabled Home and Hope from Dig the Good Life for more inspiration for Savoring the Summer Garden.

Primitive scissors and wine laying on a restored wood table with bits of chopped herbs scattered about.

Other Related Posts

Why Everyone Should Start a Garden This Year

Simple Steps to Start a Garden

What to Plant for a Fall Garden

Gift Ideas for the Gardener

Pin How to Dry Fresh Herbs: 4 Easy Preservation Methods

How to: dry your own herbs

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *